Note: This article is based on information (John 3:4-21 + Ephesians 2:4-10) taken from Magnificat, English edition, using the Jerusalem Bible Lectionary. I plan to write an additional article covering the same 2 verse topics (Grace + Salvation) but next time I plan to include 5 additional chapters (Romans 7:14-25, 8:1, 10:9-10; Matthew 18:18, 16:19) in that discussion. Below is my first article on the subject:
I often hear my Protestant friends tell me that they are “saved” (that they are certain they have been given eternal salvation) by the “grace” (gift of God) through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. To some extent (not as absolute) I believe the Catholic Church I belong-to also agrees with this statement. I respectfully disagree with both.
Two of the 3 readings for this week (The Fourth Sunday of Lent, Sunday, March 14, 2021) were interesting to me: Paul to the Ephesians 2:4-10 (2nd reading) and the Gospel according to John 3:4-21.
The Gospel was interesting to me because of the way it was written by John: "For God so loved the world that [He] gave [H]is only [S]on, so that everyone who believes in [H]im MIGHT not perish but MIGHT have eternal life."
Then back to the second reading of Paul to the Ephesians, "--by GRACE you have been saved--, raised up with [H]im and seated with [H]im (Jesus Christ)...you have been saved through faith and this is not from you; it is the GIFT of God; it is NOT FROM WORKS, so no one may boast."
John says, we “might” be saved through Christ, "but Paul says, we definitely are saved by grace...NOT from works. So Paul definitively says we are saved (and we can’t earn our salvation), while John says we “may” saved.
To me both readings (by John and Paul) need to be taken together/collectively for an understanding of the overall message. Jesus had to die in order for us enjoy the opportunity/any possibility of experiencing eternal life, first (John); before the grace of God’s salvation could become a reality, and according to Paul, a reality for everyone (Paul’s statement doesn’t limit God’s grace to specific behaviors of people).
But the second part of the above statement (per Paul) only makes sense if people like Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin are also given God’s grace; meaning there is no Hell or condemnation of evil people. Which leads me to Paul’s lack of any restriction on God’s grace. If there are no restrictions, then there will be no particular nor final judgment following death and no ethical standards by which to govern our lives. So that is why I believe that God’s grace is not available to everyone.
This is what I learned from Sunday’s readings: Jesus had to die in order for us to have the opportunity/any possibility of experiencing eternal life, first (John); before the grace of God’s gift of salvation could become a reality. (Paul). But a reality to whom?
Because some argue that God’s grace is available to everyone, and it cannot be earned, it follows that no one is condemned. Therefore, the ONLY way that logic works (that grace ISN'T earned) is if everyone IS saved. And that is why I disagree with the statement that grace, needed for salvation, is not earned, and that it is given. Grace is the gift of salvation, but the gift of grace through Jesus Christ must earned, because as I established two paragraphs above, the gift of salvation is not available to everyone.
Finally, where Paul says, “..you have been saved through faith and this is not from you; it is the GIFT of God; it is NOT FROM WORKS,” he appears to confuse things a bit. We are not saved by faith alone and faith is NOT ENTIRELY a gift. Anyone with faith understands how difficult that journey is/was to find Jesus Christ in their lives as their Lord and Savior. So faith, like salvation, is also earned from works, at least partially, to begin-with (I should add that eternal salvation depends on matters other than faith, like hope and love/charity – but I’ll leave that for another discussion). Ultimately though, it is only through God’s gift of granting us His knowledge and understanding of faith, that any of us can truly be sent on our way to the path of finding salvation in Jesus Christ.
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